Pot roast. Even the word makes my saliva bolt and my jaws ache. Pot roast can permeate a house with the smell of home…any home, really. I perfected the art long ago and practice it with regularity in the cold months. True fact: I, who hate cold and dread temperatures falling below 69 degrees when my fingertips begin to blush blue, love the first crisp day of fall. I fix pot roast.
I tried to find a facsimile photo to add, but unfortunately, modern-day foodies seem to think pot roast must be sliced. Not. Pot roast in my world needs to be falling-apart-fork tender in a rich brown gravy spiked by the over-cooked orange of carrots, the lost-their-sheen to the point of not even keeping shape onions, and celery, concocted from a bone-in chuck roast. Three pounds minimum. Rarely are there left-overs.
I grew up on a Kansas farm. In those days, there was no such labeling as “grass-fed.” Of course it was grass fed–in our pastures. Each year, Dad sent a whole steer to the locker in town and they sent back boxes of meat wrapped in white butcher’s paper which was stacked in sections separated by a piece of cardboard in the big white freezer on the back porch. The meat scraps that wouldn’t cut up into any particular cut came home in a big unfrozen package and Mom would can it. Yep. Canned meat in quart glass jars. Great for winter soups. I think I tossed out several of those jars when I went back to the farm, years after they’d moved to town and ten years after Dad died, and started cleaning up the addition Dad built on after he bought Mom a new double wide mobile home and they needed one big room for when the kids came home. That addition, built with salvaged lumber from the old house build in the late 1800s, still stands over a basement that had a fruit cellar in one corner, and when I came back, filled with pack rat nests and indecipherable jars of something. I didn’t try to find out. The jars got tossed with the pack rat nests.
We’d often have steak for dinner. I didn’t care for steak or the taste of blood. “Oh, no, steak again?” I’d whine. I didn’t like chicken either after cleaning out the chicken house in the spring, but I didn’t add that to my current litany. “Do you know how many people would be grateful for steak?” Dad would say. I didn’t care. That was like the starving children in India, I guessed. And I didn’t think children in India would like the taste of blood, either. Especially from cows. Even as a child I was entirely too well read to buy that argument. I’d eat vegetables. Sometimes, steak came with fried potatoes and onions. I liked that!
But coming in from chores to a kitchen smelling of pot roast simmered for a couple of hours? Yeah….that smelled like comfort.
My family feels the same way. “Pot roast!” they’ll say, coming in the door, the blood cooked to a gluey sauce of bullion and onions and garlic and carrots, and in a nod to modern-day foodie lore, dark red Burgundy. There will be red wine in the glasses, too. Another accoutrement not found on my childhood table.
“Yeah,” I’ll say. “Pot roast.”